l LOVE YOU SPRINGTIME. NOW … BUH-BYE
We concluded the first springtime post with the question: “Is there a downside to internalized springtime for the creative mind?”
So… is there?
Oh, you bet there is! I’ll give you an example:
Insurance agents (and I’m guessing it would be the same with all salesmen), are notorious for summarily ditching what works for them: a perfectly successful phone technique, a dynamic sales presentation, or flawless methods of turning nos into yeses. Suddenly, they just stop using them. Then, midway into their commission’s downward spiral, when their manager asks them why they stopped doing what was successful and made them money, most will sheepishly admit: “I knew that it worked, so I wanted to try something new.”
To try something new …. And, that, dear reader is the lure—the siren—of springtime!
Let me ask you this:
How many of you have amputated stories, or sheaves of half-worked melodies lying in the bottom of your desk drawers, or blocked out sketches on canvases stacked in our closets? How many of your past creative impregnations—after a rough winter’s labor—become pre-term-stillborn when challenged by springtime’s new shoots? To try something new.
Let me start the survey myself:
I have two unfinished novels and about eight or nine truncated short stories. No songs, I’m afraid. No canvases.
How about you painters reading this? Or songwriters? You other writers?
Personally, I don’t know the first thing about technique in painting, only a little more about songwriting: I can hum a ditty. But I do know what all three have in common. Throw in playwriting and sculpting, and I’m still in familiar territory. And so are you!
I know they all began with an idea, which I’ll call a vision—however unarticulated the vision was.
If the vision was true there was a powerful, if not burning, desire to bring that idea or vision to completion. Dare I say it? I shall: To give birth … to the novel, or the short story, or the painting, sculpture, stained-glass window or architecture, or the song, tune, opera, or symphony!
Of course the all-important medium between Vision and Birth is Time.
Could it be simpler? If the vision produced a desire that was consistently powerful enough over time there would be a joyous delivery.
For the formula lovers amongst us, I offer:
VISION + SUSTAINED DESIRE + TIME (GESTATION) = BIRTH
* * *
The Challenge: Visit the graveyard of projects past. Let’s do a little disinterring.
For the purposes of discussion let’s say it’s a writing project you pulled out of the graveyard of your drawer.
1. The beginning-to–unravel point: At what point did you start losing interest in your project? You didn’t just one day say, “Okay, I’m no longer interested in this.” It came by degrees. And, there was a reason for it. Chances are the reason is going to take you right back to the vision.
(Welcome Back (or is it welcome forward?)
2. The Vision: Close your eyes. Think back about the germ idea that started you thinking about writing a novel. I read once that William Faulkner’s germ idea for The Sound and the Fury came with seeing a little girl (who became Caddy) sitting on a limb (or was it a fence?) and wearing dirty drawers. It’s important to know the germ idea is not the vision. In fact, the germ idea, in the beginning, tends to link more to desire.
The vision, then, comes when you can see your story’s beginning and some hazy or perfectly etched out ending. And there is a strong feeling or an exact knowing that the ending will somehow grow out of the beginning and be pleasurable, though not necessarily pleasant. This may seem like vague gobbledygook, but if you examine it carefully it takes into account the many types of writers, some, but not all of them successful, and their methods.
3. The Desire: If your vision is powerful enough you’ll move heaven or hell to give it expression. Now that’s desire! What happens, though, when vision and desire not entirely in sync?
Vision without Desire is a someday proposition. One of these days … when you have a weekend free, when the kids are in camp, when you can afford a new laptop, when the stars are in alignment, then, surely then you’ll get around to it.
Desire without Vision is a wandering generality. (Actually, that great salesman and trainer of salesman, Zig Zigler coined the term). Many times the desire is nothing more than a strong wish to be famous, to show that high school English teacher, or boy-, or girlfriend, how wrong they were about you. Perhaps, you’re in love with the romanticized notion of being an author. See a little bit of you in any of these scenarios? If so, your projects are legion. It’s just that they don’t often see completion.
So … instead of it being a wandering generality, make your project a meaningful specific (Also, thanks to Zig Zigler). But how do you achieve that? There is no substitute for marrying the Vision to the Desire—or to be more accurate “re-marrying” the Vision to the Desire. When people remarry, it’s usually because they remember the vision (what was so good about their first marriage.) And, that gives them the desire to recapture it. The same with your project. There are no shortcuts here. You need to spend a good long time remembering what moved you in the original vision
4. Time: Okay, you have your vision remarried to a strong, sustained desire. That it will take time to bring your project to a natural birth, is a given. So why dwell on it? I’ll tell you why:
Just as a marriage or a remarriage will succeed or fail based on the frequency of affectionate contact between the two, so too will your creative project. Frequent kisses and hugs and tender words … and frequent turning on of your computer, and opening your chapter file and applying pressure to the keys are recipes for long marriages and completed projects. Time is only abstract until you use it (I said that, not Zig Ziglar)! We live in, and through, time.
Inspiration is a LIAR! Anyone sitting around waiting for it knows that. I thought I remembered a quote that “Inspiration comes disguised as hard work.” I googled it. Nothing! The closest I could come was “Opportunity comes disguised as hard work.” Herbert Prochnow wrote it. If he wrote it because he had been sitting around waiting, in vain, for opportunity, I believe he would agree with me that opportunity and inspiration are both liars!
If you don’t want the re-marriage to go dry on you don’t wait for inspiration to move you to continue on with your project.
Make romancing your project a daily practice. I can’t stress the importance of this more! In my Writer’s Journey newsletter I shared my commitment of writing two hours a day, every day, no exception, on my Fantasy Novel. I’ve done it through illness, injury, birthdays, anniversary and—the hardest—laziness and boredom. For four months and eight days I’ve continued the daily romance. (In case you’ve counted the days, yes, it was a New Year’s resolution!) Each day I checked off, in red ink, one more success on my “Don’t Break the Chain” calendar. (It’s free if you’re interested: Don’t Break the Chain ) I’ve bludgeoned and finessed my way through seventeen chapters that I know I would not have otherwise written. My rough draft will be completed in ten months and will be edited over the remaining two.
5. The Birthing Process: Don’t you just love metaphors? If time is the gestation period for completing the novel, as I laid out the process above, it would be so easy and clean to just say: “and now we have a brand new, freshly clean and swaddled novel ready for the public to Oooh and Ahhh over.
So new! So fresh! So clean! NOT! I choose to have the gestation period end and the Birthing begin where it should … with labor!
Don’t you tell me to relax you *&%#@&! You did this to me!: Okay, you’ve put the last period on the final word of your novel. You’ve reached the end of the gestation period. You lean back and sigh. But, there’s something niggling at your complacency. Is it really ready for your novel to see the world? The nigglings are two minutes apart.
What’s happening inside? For all intents and purposes your novel’s finished. It’s been in a happy place. Ever since vision and desire came together and there was the first word, the first line, the first paragraph, it didn’t have anything to do but lie in warm, cushioned comfort … and wait. But now the last period is in place. Finis!
Or is it? You know it’s going to be excruciating if you take it through the final stage of labor …
E D I T I N G! Part of you—you don’t consider it the irrational part—wants it to stay right where it is: What could you do better? It’s perfection …. First things first, you need to get an agent, then buy stamps and a manila envelope. But wait! You suddenly feel an overwhelming pressure trying to get you to push … push … PUSH! You realize you don’t have any choice. Not if you want a healthy, viable novel. What were you thinking? You must go through labor.
And, so you do.
And, so do we all.